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Natural photosynthesis features a complex biophysical/chemical process that requires sunlight to produce energy rich products. It is one of the most important processes responsible for the appearance and sustainability of life on earth. The first part of the thesis focuses on understanding the mechanisms involved in regulation of light harvesting, which is necessary to balance the absorption and utilization of light energy and in that way reduce the effect caused by photooxidative damage. In photosynthesis, carotenoids are responsible not only for collection of light, but also play a major role in protecting the photosynthetic system. To investigate the role of carotenoids in the quenching of the excited state of cyclic tetrapyrroles, two sets of dyads were studied. Both sets of dyads contain zinc phthalocyanine (Pc) covalently attached to carotenoids of varying conjugation lengths. In the first set of dyads, carotenoids were attached to the phthalocyanine via amide linkage. This set of dyads serves as a good model for understanding the molecular "gear-shift" mechanism, where the addition of one double bond can turn the carotenoid from a nonquencher to a very strong quencher of the excited state of a tetrapyrrole. In the second set of dyads, carotenoids were attached to phthalocyanine via a phenyl amino group. Two independent studies were performed on these dyads: femtosecond transient absorption and steady state fluorescence induced by two-photon excitation. In the transient absorption study it was observed that there is an instantaneous population of the carotenoid S1 state after Pc excitation, while two-photon excitation of the optically forbidden carotenoid S1 state shows 1Pc population. Both observations provide a strong indication of the existence of a shared excitonic state between carotenoid and Pc. Similar results were observed in LHC II complexes in plants, supporting the role of such interactions in photosynthetic down regulation. In the second chapter we describe the synthesis of porphyrin dyes functionalized with carboxylate and phosphonate anchoring groups to be used in the construction of photoelectrochemical cells containing a porphyrin-IrO2·nH2O complex immobilized on a TiO2 electrode. The research presented here is a step in the development of high potential porphyrin-metal oxide complexes to be used in the photooxidation of water. The last chapter focuses on developing synthetic strategies for the construction of an artificial antenna system consisting of porphyrin-silver nanoparticle conjugates, linked by DNA of varied length to study the distance dependence of the interaction between nanoparticles and the porphyrin chromophore. Preliminary studies indicate that at the distance of about 7-10 nm between porphyrin and silver nanoparticle is where the porphyrin absorption leading to fluorescence shows maximum enhancement. These new hybrid constructs will be helpful for designing efficient light harvesting systems.
Combretastatin A-4 (CA-4) represents one of the most promising antineoplastic and cancer vascular targeting stilbenes that have been isolated from the South African bush willow, Combretum Caffrum Kuntze. In order to further explore the bioactivity of this molecule, a diiodo derivative of CA-4, as well as its phosphate prodrug, was synthesized and analyzed for its biological activity; although only a scale up synthesis of this compound was performed herein for ongoing analysis. In general, no increased specificity was noted for the human cancer cell lines. Antiangiogenic properties were similar to the untreated control. The diiodocombstatin was active against M. luteus, and its phosphate prodrugs were very active against N. gonorrhoeae. Combretastain A-2 is another biologically active stilbene isolated from Combretum Caffrum Kuntze. In an attempt to increase biological activity of this molecule both mono-iodo and diiodo derivatives have been partially synthesized. The initial step involving the iodination of piperonal utilizes a novel, cost effective and mild reaction. The iodo stilbenes were obtained via a Wittig reaction using phosphonium salts 25 and 27 along with 2,3-Bis-[tert-butyldimethylsiloxy]-4-methoxy benzaldehyde 29. Deprotection of the subsequent z-stilbenes, non-isolated mono-iodo stilbene and the diiodo 30 produced two synthetic objective z-stilbenes 16 and 17. Synthesis as well as biological analysis is ongoing.
Bioanalytes such as protein, cells, and viruses provide vital information but are inherently challenging to measure with selective and sensitive detection. Gradient separation technologies can provide solutions to these challenges by enabling the selective isolation and pre-concentration of bioanalytes for improved detection and monitoring. Some fundamental aspects of two of these techniques, isoelectric focusing and dielectrophoresis, are examined and novel developments are presented. A reproducible and automatable method for coupling capillary isoelectric focusing (cIEF) and matrix assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry (MALDI-MS) based on syringe pump mobilization is found. Results show high resolution is maintained during mobilization and &beta-lactoglobulin; protein isoforms differing by two amino acids are resolved. Subsequently, the instrumental advantages of this approach are utilized to clarify the microheterogeneity of serum amyloid P component. Comprehensive, quantitative results support a relatively uniform glycoprotein model, contrary to inconsistent and equivocal observations in several gel isoelectric focusing studies. Fundamental studies of MALDI-MS on novel superhydrophobic substrates yield unique insights towards an optimal interface between cIEF and MALDI-MS. Finally, the fundamentals of isoelectric focusing in an open drop are explored. Findings suggest this could be a robust sample preparation technique for droplet-based microfluidic systems. Fundamental advancements in dielectrophoresis are also presented. Microfluidic channels for dielectrophoretic mobility characterization are designed which enable particle standardization, new insights to be deduced, and future devices to be intelligently designed. Dielectrophoretic mobilities are obtained for 1 µm polystyrene particles and red blood cells under select conditions. Employing velocimetry techniques allows models of particle motion to be improved which in turn improves the experimental methodology. Together this work contributes a quantitative framework which improves dielectrophoretic particle separation and analysis.
A major goal of synthetic biology is to recapitulate emergent properties of life. Despite a significant body of work, a longstanding question that remains to be answered is how such a complex system arose? In this dissertation, synthetic nucleic acid molecules with alternative sugar-phosphate backbones were investigated as potential ancestors of DNA and RNA. Threose nucleic acid (TNA) is capable of forming stable helical structures with complementary strands of itself and RNA. This provides a plausible mechanism for genetic information transfer between TNA and RNA. Therefore TNA has been proposed as a potential RNA progenitor. Using molecular evolution, functional sequences were isolated from a pool of random TNA molecules. This implicates a possible chemical framework capable of crosstalk between TNA and RNA. Further, this shows that heredity and evolution are not limited to the natural genetic system based on ribofuranosyl nucleic acids. Another alternative genetic system, glycerol nucleic acid (GNA) undergoes intrasystem pairing with superior thermalstability compared to that of DNA. Inspired by this property, I demonstrated a minimal nanostructure composed of both left- and right-handed mirro image GNA. This work suggested that GNA could be useful as promising orthogonal material in structural DNA nanotechnology.
The behaviors of various amorphous materials are characterized at high pressures to deduce phase transitions, coordination changes, densification, and other structural or electronic alterations in the system. Alongside, improvements on high pressure techniques are presented to measure equations of state of glassy materials and probe liquids using in-situ high resolution nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. 27Al NMR is used to quantify coordination changes in CaAl2O4 glass pressure cycled to 16 GPa. The structure and coordination environments remain unchanged up to 8 GPa at which 93% of the recovered glass exists as 4-fold Al, whereas the remaining population exists as [5,6]Al. Upon densification, [5,6]Al comprise nearly 30% of observed Al, most likely through the generation of 3-coordinated oxygen. A method to determine the volumetric equation of state of amorphous solids using optical microscopy in a diamond anvil cell is also described. The method relies on two dimensional image acquisition and analysis to quantify changes in the projected image area with compression. The area analysis method is used to determine the compression of cubic crystals, yielding results in good agreement with diffraction and volumetric measurements. A NMR probe capable of reaching 3 GPa is built to understand the nature of magnetic field gradients and improve upon the resolution of high pressure studies conducted in a diamond anvil cell. Field gradients in strength up to 6 G/cm are caused largely by mismatches in the magnetic susceptibility between the sample and gasket, which is proven to shift the chemical shift distribution by use of several different metallic gaskets. Polyamorphic behavior in triphenyl phosphite is studied at pressures up to 0.7 GPa to elucidate the formation of the glacial phase at high pressures. A perceived liquid-liquid phase transition is shown to follow a positive Clapeyron slope, and closely follows the predicted glass transition line up to 0.4 GPa and temperatures below 270 K. A drastic change in morphology is indicative of a transformation from liquid I to liquid II and followed by optical microscopy.
Studying charge transport through single molecules tethered between two metal electrodes is of fundamental importance in molecular electronics. Over the years, a variety of methods have been developed in attempts of performing such measurements. However, the limitation of these techniques is still one of the factors that prohibit one from gaining a thorough understanding of single molecule junctions. Firstly, the time resolution of experiments is typically limited to milli to microseconds, while molecular dynamics simulations are carried out on the time scale of pico to nanoseconds. A huge gap therefore persists between the theory and the experiments. This thesis demonstrates a nanosecond scale measurement of the gold atomic contact breakdown process. A combined setup of DC and AC circuits is employed, where the AC circuit reveals interesting observations in nanosecond scale not previously seen using conventional DC circuits. The breakdown time of gold atomic contacts is determined to be faster than 0.1 ns and subtle atomic events are observed within nanoseconds. Furthermore, a new method based on the scanning tunneling microscope break junction (STM-BJ) technique is developed to rapidly record thousands of I-V curves from repeatedly formed single molecule junctions. 2-dimensional I-V and conductance-voltage (G-V) histograms constructed using the acquired data allow for more meaningful statistical analysis to single molecule I-V characteristics. The bias voltage adds an additional dimension to the conventional single molecule conductance measurement. This method also allows one to perform transition voltage spectra (TVS) for individual junctions and to study the correlation between the conductance and the tunneling barrier height. The variation of measured conductance values is found to be primarily determined by the poorly defined contact geometry between the molecule and metal electrodes, rather than the tunnel barrier height. In addition, the rapid I-V technique is also found useful in studying thermoelectric effect in single molecule junctions. When applying a temperature gradient between the STM tip and substrate in air, the offset current at zero bias in the I-V characteristics is a measure of thermoelectric current. The rapid I-V technique allows for statistical analysis of such offset current at different temperature gradients and thus the Seebeck coefficient of single molecule junctions is measured. Combining with single molecule TVS, the Seebeck coefficient is also found to be a measure of tunnel barrier height.
The sun provides Earth with a virtually limitless source of energy capable of sustaining all of humanity's needs. Photosynthetic organisms have exploited this energy for eons. However, efficiently converting solar radiation into a readily available and easily transportable form is complex. New materials with optimized physical, electrochemical, and photophysical properties are at the forefront of organic solar energy conversion research. In the work presented herein, porphyrin and organometallic dyes with widely-varied properties were studied for solar energy applications. In one project, porphyrins and porphyrin-fullerene dyads with aniline-like features were polymerized via electrochemical methods into semiconductive thin films. These were shown to have high visible light absorption and stable physical and electrochemical properties. However, experimentation using porphyrin polymer films as both the light absorber and semiconductor in a photoelectrochemical cell showed relatively low efficiency of converting absorbed solar energy into electricity. In separate work, tetra-aryl porphyrin derivatives were examined in conjunction with wide-bandgap semiconductive oxides TiO2 and SnO2. Carboxylic acid-, phosphonic acid-, and silatrane-functionalized porphyrins were obtained or synthesized for attachment to the metal oxide species. Electrochemical, photophysical, photoelectrochemical, and surface stability studies of the porphyrins were performed for comparative purposes. The order of surface linkage stability on TiO2 in alkaline conditions, from most stable to least, was determined to be siloxane > phosphonate > carboxylate. Finally, porphyrin dimers fused via their meso and beta positions were synthesized using a chemical oxidative synthesis with a copper(II) oxidant. The molecules exhibit strong absorption in the visible and near-infrared spectral regions as well as interesting electrochemical properties suggesting possible applications in light harvesting and redox catalysis.
The green fluorescent protein (GFP)-like fluorescent proteins play an important role for the color of reef-building corals. Different colors of extant coral fluorescent proteins (FPs) have evolved from a green ancestral protein. Interestingly, green-to-red photoconversion FPs (Kaede-type Red FPs) are only found in clade D from Scleractinia (Faviina suborder). Therefore, I focus on the evolution of Kaede-type FPs from Faviina suborder ancestral FP. A total of 13 mutations have been identified previously that recapitulate the evolution of Kaede-type red FPs from the ancestral green FP. To examine the effect of each mutation, total ten reconstructed FPs were analyzed and six x-ray crystal structures were solved. These substitutions created a more hydrophilic environment around the carbonyl group of Phe61. Also, they increased the flexibility of the c-terminal chain, which keeps it from interacting with the entrance of the putative solvent channel. The photoconversion reaction shows a twophase kinetics. After the rapid initial phase, the overall reaction followed the firstorder kinetics. Based on the crystal structure analysis, I propose a new mechanism for Kaede-type FP photoconversion process, which a proton transfers via Gln38 to the carbonyl group of Phe61.
Most of the sunlight powering natural photosynthesis is absorbed by antenna arrays that transfer, and regulate the delivery of excitation energy to reaction centers in the chloroplast where photosynthesis takes place. Under intense sunlight the plants and certain organisms cannot fully utilize all of the sunlight received by antennas and excess redox species are formed which could potentially harm them. To prevent this, excess energy is dissipated by antennas before it reaches to the reaction centers to initiate electron transfer needed in the next steps of photosynthesis. This phenomenon is called non-photochemical quenching (NPQ). The mechanism of NPQ is not fully understood, but the process is believed to be initiated by a drop in the pH in thylakoid lumen in cells. This causes changes in otherwise nonresponsive energy acceptors which accept the excess energy, preventing oversensitization of the reaction center. To mimic this phenomenon and get insight into the mechanism of NPQ, a novel pH sensitive dye 3'6'-indolinorhodamine was designed and synthesized which in a neutral solution stays in a closed (colorless) form and does not absorb light while at low pH it opens (colored) and absorbs light. The absorption of the dye overlaps porphyrin emission, thus making energy transfer from the porphyrin to the dye thermodynamically possible. Several self-regulating molecular model systems were designed and synthesized consisting of this dye and zinc porphyrins organized on a hexaphenylbenzene framework to functionally mimic the role of the antenna in NPQ. When a dye-zinc porphyrin dyad is dissolved in an organic solvent, the zinc porphyrin antenna absorbs and emits light by normal photophysical processes. Time resolved fluorescence experiments using the single-photon-timing method with excitation at 425 nm and emission at 600 nm yielded a lifetime of 2.09 ns for the porphyrin first excited singlet state. When acetic acid is added to the solution of the dyad, the pH sensitive dye opens and quenches the zinc porphyrin emission decreasing the lifetime of the porphyrin first excited singlet state to 23 ps, and converting the excitation energy to heat. Under similar experimental conditions in a neutral solution, a model hexad containing the dye and five zinc porphyrins organized on a hexaphenylbenzene core decays exponentially with a time constant of 2.1 ns, which is essentially the same lifetime as observed for related monomeric zinc porphyrins. When a solution of the hexad is acidified, the dye opens and quenches all porphyrin first excited singlet states to <40 ps. This converts the excitation energy to heat and renders the porphyrins kinetically incompetent to readily donate electrons by photoinduced electron transfer, thereby mimicking the role of the antenna in photosynthetic photoprotection.
Polydimethyl siloxane is a commonly used fabrication material for microfluidic devices. However, its hydrophobic nature and protein adsorption on the surface restricts its use for microfluidic applications. Also, it is critical to control the electroosmotic flow for electrophoretic and dielectrophoretic manipulations. Therefore, surface modification of PDMS is essential to make it well suited for bioanalytical applications. In this project, the role of polyethylene oxide copolymers F108 and PLL-PEG has been investigated to modify the surface properties of PDMS using physisorption method. Measuring electroosmotic flow and adsorption studies tested the quality and the long-term stability of the modified PDMS surface. Static and dynamic coating strategies were used to modify the PDMS surface. In static coating, the PDMS surface was incubated with the coating agent prior to the measurements. For dynamic coating, the coating agent was always present in the solution throughout the experiment. F108 and PLL-PEG were equally effective to prevent the protein adsorption under both strategies. However, dynamic coating was more time saving. Furthermore, effective reduction of EOF was observed with F108 coating agent under dynamic conditions and with PLL-PEG coating agent under static conditions. Moreover, PLL-PEG dynamic coatings exhibited reversal of EOF. These important findings could be used to manipulate EOF and suggest optimal coating agent and strategies for PDMS surface treatment by the physisorption method.